California dreaming about the future

A group hoping to reform the California government submitted its initiatives for next year’s ballot, which, among other things, would call for changes to the state constitution. But despite all the gloomy predictions about California crumbling under its own size and structure, at least one national magazine believes the state is still golden.

And that would be Time, which this week did a cover story outlining “Why California is still America’s Future,” despite the fact, as the author notes, the state is an “apocalyptic mess.”

So why does the New York-based journal gush so breathlessly about our fortunes? Largely because it’s still steered the way most global leaders believe the world must head — toward things green, energy-conscious and technologically savvy. California is as cool as an iPhone, it turns out, and has even more ­applications.

Now I realize Time can be a bit hyperbolic — when I worked there a lifetime ago, it was so obsessed with things high-tech that it constantly recounted the story of Apple’s founding as if its editors were witness to the blessed event.

But it does rightly note that California is spending millions on clean technology and is the national leader in green jobs, industry patents and the unabashed front-runner when it come to zero-emission buildings and electric cars.

Other fun facts include the figure that half of all the venture capital dollars raised in the United States were spent right here in the Bay Area on emerging technologies such as microchips and software for solar energy industries. And in a special shout-out to the Bay Guardian, which has been whining about the corporate evils of Pacific Gas and Electric for the past four decades, Time went out of its way to point out that 40 percent of all the solar panel installations in the nation are in the utility giant’s Northern California district.

Of course, just for balance, it was duly noted that the state is still plagued with horrific dropout rates, water shortages and general infrastructure problems.

Yet groups including Reform California are trying to put an end to the budget madness, which explains the optimism. It turns out we’re so green that other states are green with envy, and it may be the reason almost every politician in the state currently running for office is donning his or her eco-­warrior suit, nobody more so than our resident jolly green giant, Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Logistics of legalizing the green stuff hazy

The push to legalize marijuana in California got its first official hearing this week and it would be fair to say that the bandwagon in the Assembly was full (but no, it was not a joint committee hearing).

Still, one can’t help think that it would simply not be as easy as proponents say to quickly turn pot growing and buying into a regulated industry, especially since there are a lot of people making money selling the stuff precisely because it’s not legal.

One expert on drug policy noted that the economics on marijuana are as elusive as smoke and that it would be impossible to say how much money could be raised in tax revenue. Those pushing the change say the state could take in more than $1 billion annually — yet that assumes officials could actually enforce the new tax, since there will be countless sellers and users who don’t want to be identified by the government.

The enforcement issue is key, since rogue pot operations have sprung up like magic buds throughout California. In Los Angeles alone, city officials say they may have 600 or 800 unpermitted pot clubs — and there’s a good reason for that.

City employees get a wake-up call

Thousands of city and county employees got a wake-up call — literally — this week when San Francisco unveiled one part of a new emergency system.

To say that people were surprised would be an understatement. It would appear that our inefficient, technologically challenged city has turned one small corner and employees can no longer rely on the government to help them not do their jobs.

Automated calls went out about 7 a.m. Wednesday with a message advising certain city employees that the Bay Bridge was closed indefinitely and that The City was “open for business” as usual. The named employees were told to take alternative transportation if traveling from the East Bay, but that if they expected any difficulties, they should contact their supervisors immediately.

San Francisco actually has a system that can call every city and county employee automatically.

Imagine the possibilities.

“We decided to test the new system and it worked pretty well,” Newsom told me. “It got to a vast majority of people, and that’s a positive thing, especially with an earthquake on our horizon. All these workers would be acting as service employees in an emergency.”

Apparently the decision to roll out the automated call was reached after word got out that a lot of East Bay residents were thinking of using the bridge closure as a reason to hunker down at home.

“I was pretty surprised since I wondered who other than my mother would be calling me at 7 a.m.,” one city worker said.

Dylan releases Christmas CD

You know the season of holiday kitsch is upon us when Bob Dylan channels his inner Bing Crosby and releases a Christmas album. Pop music’s best-known Jew singing “Here comes Santa Claus”? That isn’t just a novelty — it’s a notation in the historic timeline of music-making.

I can honestly say that hearing Dylan huff through “Winter Wonderland” would be a once in a lifetime experience because you probably wouldn’t want to have that experience again. But I will note for all those looking for an unusual stocking-stuffer that Dylan is donating all of his royalties from the holiday release to several anti-hunger organizations, including Feeding America.

That may not generate a huge appetite for sales, but it is interesting. And it’s worth remembering that almost everybody in the music industry business has made a Christmas album, including mad genius/convicted killer Phil Spector, whose collection is among the all-time best.

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